Mumbai. The Bombay high court on Friday set aside the sanction granted by Maharashtra governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao to the CBI to prosecute Congress leader and former state chief minister Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing society scam.

Hearing a petition by Chavan, a division bench of the high court comprising Justices Ranjit More and Sadhana Jadhav said that the CBI “failed to present any fresh evidence” against Chavan despite claiming to be possessing them.   

This comes as a huge relief for Chavan. The order, coming after acquittal of 17 accused persons in the alleged 2G spectrum scam on Thursday by a special court in New Delhi, is also a shot in the arm of the Congress in corruption related allegations.

In February 2016, the Maharashtra governor had granted the CBI the sanction to prosecute Chavan under several sections of the IPC related to criminal conspiracy, cheating and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The former chief minister, who is now the Maharashtra Congress chief, had moved the high court challenging the governor’s “arbitrary, illegal and unjust” sanction having “malafide intentions”.

Chavan was the chief minister of Maharashtra between December 2008 and November 2010. He was forced to resign as the chief minister after alleged corruption to the tunes of hundreds of crores in the Adarsh housing allotment was unearthed.

The Adarsh scam involves the irregularities in the allotment of flats in the posh 31-storey Adarh Housing Cooperative Society built on prime real estate in the Colaba area of Mumbai. The society was meant to be a welfare scheme for allotment of flats to war widows and defence personnel, but eventually several powerful politicians, bureaucrats and defence officers grabbed most of the flats flouting and bending rules by paying below market price.   

Following its investigation into the scam, the CBI alleged that as the revenue minister in the Maharashtra government, Chavan first approved allotment of 40% of the flats to civilians despite the fact that it was meant for war widows and defence personnel. Then as the chief minister, the CBI alleged, he approved additional floor space index (FSI) for the housing project to enable the project to add some extra floors and in the process accepting two flats for his relatives.